After 16 hours of police investigation, ‘kidnapped’ 24-year-old man in S’pore turns out to be a victim of fraud

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A 24-year-old man, reported missing, was recently found to be the victim of a China Official Impersonation Scam (COIS).

Mom received video from him limited

On September 8, Singapore police received a report that 24-year-old James (not his real name) had allegedly been kidnapped.

James’ mother and a friend of his, both based in China, had received a video of the victim with his hands behind his back and legs tied together from an unknown person communicating in Mandarin.

Following the report, agents from the Tanglin Police Division, Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department and Commercial Affairs Department were activated and conducted extensive investigations to locate him.

James was finally found safe and sound on Sept. 9, after a 16-hour search, police told media.

How the scam unfolded

James told media he received a cold call in mid-August 2022, allegedly from a Department of Health (MOH) employee.

The scammer first claimed that James had held a package at customs that contained illegal Covid-19 drugs. James was then forwarded to another con man posing as “the Chinese police” for investigation.

The “Chinese police” allegedly ordered James to isolate himself and to stop communicating with others to facilitate their investigation.

At one point, “Chinese police” also informed the 24-year-old that he was part of an organ-trading syndicate.

In an effort to clear his name and help the “Chinese police” catch the scammers, James agreed to the “Chinese police” request to make a video of himself with his hands behind his back and legs tied to make it look like he was captured.

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James was told that the video taken on September 1 would be used for their investigation to lure and arrest the members of the syndicate.

The next day, the “Chinese police” informed him that his video had successfully helped them arrest some members.

Speak with mothershiphe admitted that he was quite happy that he had helped the “police” to catch criminals at the time.

That was not the end, however.

The “Chinese police” later told James that he was suspected of having leaked information about this operation.

To clear his name, he followed instructions to leave his home and walk around shopping malls in Singapore for hours for a few days.

The truth

While James thought he was helping police in China catch criminals in Singapore, the “Chinese police” alongside the video sent threats to his friend and mother without his knowledge.

This led to James’ family reporting his disappearance to the Singapore Police Force.

After a 16-hour search, Singapore police found James in the mall and told him he had been scammed.

James told mothership that the Singapore Police Department has informed his family that kidnappings are rare in Singapore, but scams are common. This allayed their fear of his disappearance.

No one has suffered financial losses as a result.

After reconnecting with his mother, he realized that additional edits had been made to the video of him being taped before being sent to his mother.

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Why did the 24-year-old fall for the scam?

The 24-year-old shared with mothership that the scammers did not ask him for money.

He had to report his whereabouts every day.

In addition, they also received his personal information, such as his passport photo.

When asked why he didn’t think it was weird that he was approached by the “Chinese police” via Telegram, James was told that Telegram was a more secure communication option.

As such, while James was dubious at one point, he eventually got caught up in the scam.

Not the only case

Another “missing” 16-year-old boy turned out to be a scammer on September 12.

Likewise, the victim’s mother, who is based in China, received a video of the victim with his hands tied on a couch.

Following the report, agents from the Tanglin Police Division, Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department and Commercial Affairs Department were activated and conducted extensive investigations to locate the victim.

He was finally found safe and sound on September 13.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the victim had received an unsolicited phone call, ostensibly from a MOH official.

The scammer alleged that the victim was spreading rumors about Covid-19 in China and was allegedly involved in smuggling smuggled cigarettes from China to Singapore. The victim was then forwarded to another scammer posing as “the Chinese police” for investigation.

The scammer further claimed that the victim’s data may have been misused by his mother in China. As such, they would need the victim’s cooperation to stage a hostage situation to convince his mother to tell the truth.

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The scammer allegedly instructed the victim to isolate himself and make a video of himself. He was then told to end communication and stay in a house arranged by the scammer.

Unbeknownst to the victim, the scammers sent the video to the victim’s mother to demand a ransom of RMB 1 million (S$200,063) for his release.

The Singapore police were able to intervene and locate the victim. Neither the victim nor the mother suffered financial losses.

The police investigation is ongoing in both cases.

Chinese police not authorized to conduct operations in Singapore

From January to August 2022, a total of 476 COIS cases were reported, with losses of at least S$57.3 million, Singapore police said.

The Chinese Police, Interpol and other Overseas Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are not authorized to conduct operations in Singapore, arrest anyone or ask members of the public to assist with any investigation without the approval of the Government of Singapore.

The police take a serious stand against anyone involved in defrauding people, knowingly or unknowingly, and will be treated in accordance with the law.

To obtain scam-related advice, members of the public may call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg.

Top image via Canva and via Christian Wiediger/Unsplash, Wikimedia Commons

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